1) THE REWARD FOR WALKING TO SHUL
QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that when there are two synagogues in one's vicinity, he receives "Sechar Pesi'os" for walking to the synagogue which is farther away. RASHI explains that this Gemara teaches that when a person exerts himself more than necessary in order to do a Mitzvah, he acquires more reward for the Mitzvah (see Avos 5:23, "l'Fum Tza'ara Agra").
Although the importance of exerting oneself for a Mitzvah may be derived from the words of the Gemara here, the Gemara expresses this principle only with regard to exerting oneself by traveling a longer distance to reach a Beis ha'Keneses. (The Gemara does not say, for example, that one performs a greater Mitzvah when he walks a longer distance to perform the Mitzvah of sitting in a Sukah.) Is there any reason for why walking to a Beis ha'Keneses is unique in this respect?
(a) Perhaps there is a special Mitzvah to travel to the Beis ha'Keneses because the Beis ha'Keneses is called a "Mikdash Me'at" (Megilah 29a; see also Bava Metzia 28b), and the Torah gives a Mitzvah to travel to the Beis ha'Mikdash during the Regel. The same Mitzvah to travel to the Beis ha'Mikdash applies to traveling to the "Mikdash Me'at," the Beis ha'Keneses.
(b) The objective of prayer is to bring oneself closer to Hash-m and to lessen the distance between Hash-m and oneself, so to speak (see Sotah 5a). Traveling a distance towards the synagogue symbolizes that one is exerting himself to lessen the distance between Hash-m and him. Therefore, it is an appropriate preface to prayer. (This may also be one of the themes of Aliyah l'Regel.) (MAHARAL in NESIVOS OLAM, Nesiv ha'Avodah 5)
2) AGADAH: A WRONGFUL ACT OF A TALMID CHACHAM
The Gemara teaches that a Talmid Chacham can become liable for death for either passing Halachic rulings when he is not yet of age, or for not passing Halachic rulings when he is of age.
Based on this Gemara, the VILNA GA'ON (Kol Eliyahu #64) offers a fascinating explanation for why the phrase "Lo Tirtzach" in the Aseres ha'Dibros (Shemos 20:13) is pronounced in two different ways. When the Torah is read with the Ta'am ha'Tachton, the sub-lineal cantillational notes, the word "Tirtzach" is in the middle of a verse and is pronounced with the vowelization of a "Patach" beneath the letter Tzadi. When the Torah is read with the Ta'am ha'Elyon, the super-lineal cantillational notes, the word is pronounced with the vowelization of a "Kamatz" since it is read as the end of the verse, and thus it is pronounced "Tirtzoch."
The Vilna Ga'on explains that the verse alludes to the two sins for which a Talmid Chacham is punished with death. By transgressing one of these two sins, a Talmid Chacham also commits "murder" ("Tirtzach") because he brings about his own death (or because he brings about the death of the people of his generation, as RASHI in Avodah Zarah (19b) writes). The first sin is that the Talmid Chacham opens ("Patach") his mouth and renders Halachic rulings when he is not supposed to do so, and the other sin is that he closes ("Kamatz," as in "Kamtzan") his mouth when he is supposed to open it and render Halachic rulings!
3) DOING MITZVOS "SHE'LO LISHMAH"
QUESTION: The Gemara describes seven types of undesirable Perushim. Among them are, "Parush Shichmi," "Parush me'Ahavah," and "Parush me'Yir'ah." RASHI explains that "Parush Shichmi" refers to a person who performs Mitzvos like the people of Shechem, who circumcised themselves to gain honor and not l'Shem Shamayim. (The Yerushalmi explains that "Parush Shichmi" refers to a person who carries his Mitzvos on his "shoulder" ("Shechem") in order to flaunt them publicly.) "Parush me'Ahavah" and "Parush me'Yir'ah" refer to people who act devoutly out of their desire for reward for performing the Mitzvos, or out of their desire to avoid punishment for transgressing the Mitzvos, and they do not do the Mitzvos out of love for Hash-m.
Abaye and Rava state that the Tana should omit the last two Perushim, because they are not derogatory types of Perushim. Rav teaches that a person should
learn Torah and do Mitzvos even she'Lo Lishmah because such acts will bring him to do them Lishmah. The Gemara in Nazir (23b) adds that Rav cites support for this from the fact that Balak sacrificed 42 Korbanos only in order to appease Hash-m to destroy the Jewish people, and yet he merited to have Ruth as a granddaughter who fulfilled the Mitzvos Lishmah (see Insights to Nazir 23:3-4
Why does Abaye not state that the Tana should also omit "Parush Shichmi" from his list? A "Parush Shichmi" is also one who does Mitzvos she'Lo Lishmah, and he, too, will eventually merit to do them Lishmah.
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that when the people of Shechem performed Milah, everyone who saw them knew that they performed the act for their own personal gain and not Lishmah. Therefore, their act was not on the same level as one who does a Mitzvah in a way that only he knows that he is doing it for personal gain and not Lishmah. The she'Lo Lishmah of Shechem is indeed a derogatory form of Lo Lishmah.
However, this approach does not seem consistent with the proof that Rav cites from Balak. In his case, it certainly was clear to everyone that Balak was bringing his Korbanos only out of his desire for personal gain, and yet Rav says that Balak's act is the source that one who does a Mitzvah she'Lo Lishmah will eventually do it Lishmah.
(b) RAV ELYASHIV shlit'a (quoted in HE'OROS B'MASECHES SOTAH) explains that although a person who performs Mitzvos -- which he is obligated to do -- she'Lo Lishmah is doing something positive, a person who is not obligated to do a certain Mitzvah but chooses to do it for personal gain is not acting properly. He should refrain from doing the Mitzvah altogether rather than do it she'Lo Lishmah. The people in Shechem were not obligated to perform Milah, and therefore when they performed the Mitzvah she'Lo Lishmah they acted improperly. Similarly, a person who wears Tefilin all day only in order to gain the respect of others does not act properly.
This might explain why Rashi (DH Ma'aseh Shechem) writes that this Parush performs "his acts" ("Ma'asav") for his own benefit, and he does not write that this Parush performs "Mitzvos" for his own benefit.
However, this approach also does not seem consistent with the proof from Balak who offered Korbanos she'Lo Lishmah. How can Rav prove from Balak that "Mitoch she'Lo Lishmah, Ba Lishmah," if Balak was not obligated to offer Korbanos?
(c) Rav states that a person should do Mitzvos even she'Lo Lishmah because doing Mitzvos she'Lo Lishmah brings a person to do them Lishmah. To whom does Rav address his statement? Does he address the person who does not want to do Mitzvos at all, or does he address the person who wants to do Mitzvos Lishmah? He obviously is not addressing a person who wants to do Mitzvos Lishmah, because he would not tell that person to do the Mitzvos she'Lo Lishmah. Rather, Rav must be addressing a person who is ready to refrain from doing a Mitzvah because he knows he cannot do it Lishmah. Rav tells him that he should do the Mitzvah in any case, because by doing it she'Lo Lishmah he will merit to do it Lishmah. The person to whom Rav addresses his statement clearly does not intend to do the Mitzvah for personal gain, because such a person would not consider refraining from doing the Mitzvah due to his lack of ability to do it Lishmah.
Rather, Rav is addressing a person who wants to do Mitzvos Lishmah but he has difficulty recognizing the loftiness of Hash-m and arousing in himself a love for Hash-m. The person wants to do the will of Hash-m, but he considers refraining from doing the Mitzvah because he reasons that if he performs the Mitzvah, he will not do it in the proper manner and Hash-m will be displeased with him. Rav tells such a person that even if his only reason to do the Mitzvah is to avoid the wrath of Hash-m, it is better than not doing the Mitzvah at all. Through such performance of the Mitzvah he will merit to perform Mitzvos out of love for Hash-m. Rav proves from Balak that a person who does Mitzvos she'Lo Lishmah merits to do Mitzvos Lishmah.
According to this approach, perhaps Rav advises a person to perform a Mitzvah she'Lo Lishmah only in the circumstances mentioned above because a person who is not on the proper level of Avodas Hash-m is unable to arouse in himself the love of Hash-m until he performs Mitzvos, and through the performance of Mitzvos he comes to do them Lishmah. However, if a person wants to do Mitzvos for personal gain, Rav would tell him to refrain from doing Mitzvos, since the person should do Mitzvos simply because he is obligated by the Torah to do them and he does not need to do them in a way that brings him personal gain. If he is not bound by the Torah, he should avoid doing them entirely.
The proof Rav cites from Balak is that any she'Lo Lishmah performance of a Mitzvah can lead to Lishmah, even the worst she'Lo Lishmah (for personal gain). However, there is no need to advise a person to do Mitzvos in such a manner (to gain honor or monetary benefit in this world), since he could just as well do the Mitzvah for the reward in the World to Come. Nothing stops him from doing the Mitzvah for reward in the World to Come.
For this reason, Abaye says that the last two Perushim should be omitted from the list. Rav teaches that it is advisable to serve Hash-m in such a Lo Lishmah manner. However, doing Mitzvos in the manner of the "Parush Shichmi" is never an advisable manner in which to serve Hash-m, even if it may lead one to do Mitzvos Lishmah.
This explanation also supports the explanations of the Maharsha and Rav Elyashiv in He'oros b'Maseches Sotah. (M. KORNFELD)